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California, Nevada Senators Introduce Bill to Restore Lake Tahoe Basin

Authorizes $415 million for programs to improve water clarity, reduce wildfire threat, combat invasive species

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By: Sen. Dianne Feinstein's office

Washington August 1, 2013 - U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today introduced the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, a bill to restore Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Basin and protect the region from a number of imminent threats. The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

The Lake Tahoe Restoration Act continues the federal commitment to Lake Tahoe by authorizing $415 million over 10 years to will improve Lake Tahoe's water clarity, reduce risks from catastrophic wildfires, combat invasive species and restore and protect the environment in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

"I strongly believe we have a duty to protect Lake Tahoe, one of the most beautiful and pristine spots in our country," said Senator Feinstein. "Even in times of fiscal austerity, we cannot ignore the natural wonders that define our country. Lake Tahoe continues to suffer from pollution and sedimentation that reduces the lake's remarkable water clarity, the potential for devastating wildfires remains high and a variety of invasive species threaten to devastate the region's economy.

Feinstein continued: "The public-private partnership established in the basin 17 years ago has resulted in significant environmental gains. This bill doubles down on the work already done, offering us the opportunity to continue this important work so future generations can continues to enjoy the Jewel of the Sierra."

Senator Reid said: "Lake Tahoe is such a treasure in Nevada and we're privileged to share it with California. Lake Tahoe is one of the purist lakes in the world, and it is vital that we protect it. The Lake Tahoe Restoration Act takes major steps to guard the Jewel of the Sierras against pollution, wildfire and invasive species while funding critical watershed restoration and Lahontan Cutthroat Trout recovery efforts."

Senator Heller said: "Any visitor to Lake Tahoe can attest to its beauty and the need to preserve this valuable resource for generations to come. Preventing catastrophic wildfires, increasing lake clarity and providing for critical infrastructure are important tools that will help foster the long-term ecological health of the Tahoe Basin. Responsibility to protect this natural treasure belongs to Nevada and California, which is why I am pleased to work with my colleagues on this bill."

Senator Boxer said: "Lake Tahoe has always been one of California's most magnificent treasures. Our bill builds on more than a decade of work to help restore the clarity of Lake Tahoe's waters, reduce the threat of wildfires, and prevent the spread of harmful invasive species."

The Lake Tahoe Restoration Act does the following:

Restores Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Basin. The legislation authorizes $243 million over 10 years for the highest-priority restoration projects based on scientific data. The legislation authorizes at least $138 million for stormwater management and watershed restoration projects that are scientifically-determined to be the most effective ways to improve water clarity. The legislation also requires a prioritized ranking of environmental restoration projects and authorizes $80 million for the Lake Tahoe stakeholders to implement these priority projects. Implementation of priority projects will improve water quality, forest health, air quality and fish and wildlife habitat around Lake Tahoe.

Reduces the threat of wildfire in the Tahoe Basin. Authorizes $135 million over 10 years for hazardous fuels reduction projects to reduce the threat of fire in the Lake Tahoe Basin. It also creates incentives for local communities to have dedicated funding for defensible space inspections and enforcement.

Protects Lake Tahoe from the threat of Quagga mussels and other invasive aquatic species. The bill provides $30 million for watercraft inspections and removal of existing invasive species and requires all watercraft be inspected to prevent the introduction of invasive aquatic species in accordance with the Lake Tahoe Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan.

Supports reintroduction of the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout. The legislation authorizes $20 million over 10 years for the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout Recovery Plan. The Lahontan Cutthroat Trout is an iconic species that has an important historic legacy in Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe is one of the historic 11 lakes that had Lahontan Cutthroat Trout in the past and is a critical part of the strategy to recover the species.

Funds scientific research. The bill authorizes $30 million over 10 years for scientific programs and research that will produce information on long-term trends in the Basin and inform the most cost-effective projects.

Prohibits mining operations in the Tahoe Basin. The legislation would prevent the start of any mining operations in the basin, ensuring the fragile watershed and Lake Tahoe's water clarity are not threatened by pollution from mining operations.

Increases accountability and oversight. All projects funded by this legislation will have monitoring and assessment in order to determine the most cost-effective projects and best management practices for future projects. The legislation also requires an annual report to Congress detailing the status of all projects undertaken including project scope, budget and justification as well as overall expenditures and accomplishments.

Provides for public outreach and education. The legislation requires signage on federally financed projects in order to improve public awareness of restoration efforts. In addition, the bill creates a public outreach and education program to encourage basin residents and visitors to implement defensible space to limit wildfire risk; to implement best management practices for water quality protection; and to take actions to prevent the introduction and proliferation of invasive species.

Allows for increased efficiency in the management of public land. Under this legislation, the Forest Service would have increased flexibility to exchange land with state and local entities allowing for more cost-efficient management of public land. Currently, the Forest Service manages more than 3,200 urban parcels spread throughout the Basin.

A summary of the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act is available here.

"Out of the mosaic of public and private land holdings surrounding Lake Tahoe has grown an incredible partnership for restoration with funding support from all sectors ranging from the federal government to private property owners," said Joanne S. Marchetta, executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. "Science is showing that our restoration programs are making progress protecting Tahoe's air, water, and forests and this legislation provides an important commitment to continuing the work."

History

The Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2013 builds on efforts started with the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2000, a bill sponsored by Senators Feinstein, Reid, Boxer and then-Senator Richard Bryan (D-Nev.).

That bill, signed into law in November 2000, prompted significant investments in the health of Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Basin. Since 2000, contributions from the federal government total $544 million, California $647 million, Nevada $110 million, local governments $73 million and the private sector $312 million. An additional $300 million from the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act fund was spent over 10 years on land acquisition, erosion control, forest management, fire suppression and improvements in water quality for Lake Tahoe.

Since the initial Lake Tahoe Restoration Act became law in 2000, improvements in the basin include:

- Fuels reduction treatment of 54,444 acres;

- Wildlife habitat improvements on 15,850 acres of land, including 1,509 acres of Stream Environment Zones;

- Acquisition of 3,103 acres of sensitive land and improvements to 577 miles of roadways to prevent sediment from entering the lake.

· Addition of 2,579 linear feet of shoreline for public access; and

· Creation of 134 miles of bike and pedestrian routes.

 

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